Gold Panda (#7) is the horse to beat as he takes another crack at this N2X allowance condition for New York-breds. However, it is somewhat troubling that he lost as the 1-2 favorite last time in a 5-horse field that looked like his race to lose. I know his connections have said that he wasn’t comfortable racing on the lead, but that seems like a poor excuse considering that he got away with slow early fractions. Apparently the plan is to take him off the pace here, and they will probably have to do so with other speed in the field. He was very good over the summer at Saratoga, but I have some doubts about whether he can get back to that form at a short price.
I still prefer him to Big Bobby (#6), who was second best to this horse two back and wasn’t that impressive despite winning against inferior company last time. While there are a few speeds signed on, I’m skeptical that this pace will be that fast. Gold Panda is expected to rate, and I can’t imagine that the connections of Winners Laugh (#5) will be that aggressive off the layoff.
That may leave STEAM ENGINE (#1) in a controlling position. This gelding is naturally quickest of the group anyway, and he showed that he still has some run in his legs two back at Monmouth. He regressed at this level last time at Belmont, but that may have been a stronger race than the speed figures indicate. I like the claim by Linda Rice, and now he’s getting back to Aqueduct where he’s run some of his best races. He could get somewhat ignored in the face of a few lightly raced rivals but he’s as good as anyone in this field on his best day.
Exacta Key Box: 1 with 4,5,6,7
Trifecta: 1,7 with 1,7 with 4,5,6